Digital Citizenship Culminating Project

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Positive, responsible, and effective participation in the digital world.


Reviewing the Elements of Digital Citizenship

The base elements of digital citizenship are crucial and personal, and it is apparent that citizenship and digital citizenship have pretty much the same meaning in the twenty-first century. Jason Ohler’s (2012) article supports this understanding as he speaks about how educators must realize the reality that technology surrounds students, which means it should be a core part of their education. Ignoring technology’s existence only encourages students to use it improperly and become bad digital citizens. 

Mike Ribble (2015, p. 480) defines digital citizenship as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.” Jason Ohler (2012) focuses his definition of digital citizenship on “balancing the individual empowerment of digital technology with a sense of personal, community, and global responsibility.” Finally, Terry Heick’s (2013) citizenship definition, referenced by Polgar and Curran (2015), is “self-monitored participation that reflects conscious interdependence with all (visible and less visible) community members.” After reviewing these definitions and learning about digital citizenship in general, one can infer that being a good digital citizen means having the ability to responsibly, positively, and effectively participate in the digital world. In order to achieve this goal one must understand the elements and how they factor into technology usage. 

Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

Ribble (2015) categorizes his nine elements of digital citizenship in a way that helps teachers to understand how each element relates to education and how it will help students become good twenty-first century citizens. The three categories are student learning and academic performance, school environment and student behavior, and student life outside the school environment. All three of these categories and all nine of the principles create an environment in which students can develop into responsible digital citizens. 

Within the first category of student learning and academic performance are digital access, digital literacy, and digital communication. Digital access is where it begins and it refers to the individual’s ability to be a part of a digital society. Digital communication is an individual’s understanding of the variety of methods of exchanging information. Digital literacy is about learning and sharing technology (Ribble, 2015). These elements should be taught within academic courses which is why they fall into the category of student learning and academic performance. 

School environment and student behavior, the second category, includes digital etiquette, digital rights and responsibilities, and digital security. Etiquette focuses on the consideration of others, rights and responsibilities encourages individuals to understand digital rights of others, and security requires students to understand the importance of protecting themselves and their information (Ribble, 2015). These are necessary to understand for all digital citizens to ensure they are not stealing property or creating a negative atmosphere which discourages others from using technology. 

Finally, students must understand digital commerce, digital law, and digital health and wellness. Since the digital market is constantly shifting, students must be aware of how to buy and sell products digitally. They also need to be informed of potential legal, physical, and mental repercussions (Ribble, 2015). Having a fully developed understanding of all nine elements allows an individual to be responsible when working and navigating online, as well as having the ability to avoid negative consequences of inappropriate behaviors. 

Understanding the Impact of Technology

In a time when social media posts have become overwhelming, people often forget to consider the possible permanent impacts technology can have. No matter how often a teacher may instruct students about the importance of understanding their digital footprints and how their online activity can affect their futures, they rarely consider more than simply avoiding creating irresponsible posts. At this point, the internet is a well-oiled machine that has the ability to affect personal, professional, and educational lives. There is a lot that consumers should do in order to ensure their online representations are positive and accurate. 

It is very important to be aware of the potential control that service providers and search engines have over what can be seen on the internet. The Federal Communications Commission (2015) created and enforced the Open Internet rules to “protect free expression and innovation on the internet.” Without these rules, schools and individuals could be paying more for internet services, or receiving unfair internet speeds for certain sites dependent upon what they pay these companies. These inequities could be disastrous for new or less prolific schools who are unable to afford faster services (Long, 2015). There are also privacy issues regarding the internet as ninety-one percent of people who are aware still do not make changes to increase their privacy (Madden & Rainie, 2015). This reinforces the need for teachers to make students aware of this, as well as to teach them how to protect themselves online from others while also protecting themselves from their own actions. 

It is apparent that the world is consumed by technology, and this can be a positive or negative thing. Lenhart’s (2015) research states that “24% of teens go online ‘almost constantly.’” The issue with this is that people who do this have difficulty making meaningful interactions with others in person because they are always online. Negative obsessions have grown and impacted personal and educational lives, when technology should instead be increasing learning and availability. Nickolas Negroponte’s TED (2014) video demonstrates this when less fortunate children were able to learn more complex technologies by using a table and each other. A balance needs to be taught and upheld in order for students to make good decisions and become stronger digital citizens. 

Understanding Copyright and Plagiarism Guidelines

Plagiarism and copyright laws are abused by educators and students on a regular basis. These actions are not done with malicious intent, but rather because of ignorance. It is imperative for educators to have a full understanding of copyright and plagiarism rules to make sure they do not face legal actions, but also to make sure they are fully preparing their students. 

A critical starting point is to determine the differences between copyright infringement and plagiarism. Plagiarism can be defined as using the “original work or works of another and presenting it as your own” (Bailey, 2013). This should never happen because it is dishonest and considered a form of cheating when it relates to academics. Copyright infringement is when someone reproduces, imitates, distributes, or publicly displays something that is copyrighted without permission (Bailey, 2013). One of the myths that contribute to teachers illegally using resources is that using materials for educational purposes is an exception to the law, “but it [is] not automatically in all cases” (Brigham Young University, 2017). There are many other factors that should be understood in order to use copyrighted materials without generating permission. 

There are two laws that help educators when it relates to using copyrighted materials without permission. Those are fair use and the TEACH Act. The four factors of fair use are purpose, nature, amount, and effect. All of these need to be considered by teachers before they use copyrighted materials (dschrimsher, 2010). When a teacher wants to use unoriginal materials, they need to evaluate what is going to be used with the four factors to determine if usage is legal. The TEACH Act provides someone the right to digitize materials for the purpose of education (Piculell, 2013). This is important since the educational world continues to develop and use the internet as an extension of the classrooms. Online learning is a growing trend and teacher being able to supply materials legally is as important as doing so with those involved in the traditional classroom setting. 

Recognizing and Preventing Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an issue that has grown with the evolution of technology. The main issue with this involves empathy and a belief from society that it is acceptable to publicly shame others. This is a struggle the world faces with how people treat one another, and the best possible solution is still the most common solution to all issues: education. 

In order to prevent cyberbullying, step one should be understanding what it is. It is “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (Hinduja and Patchin, 2015, p. 11). This means, any time that anyone is purposefully and repeatedly hurting anyone while using technology, they are cyberbullying. What is scarier is that it is impossible to escape from since cyberbullying “is not restrained by time or space and can use multiple media platforms” (Brewer and Kerslake, 2015). For this reason, self-esteem is directly affected and youth are naturally more susceptible to self-esteem issues. This is what happened to Ryan Halligan (Ryan’s story, 2015) and Kylie Kenney (Struglinsky, 2006) years ago. Unfortunately, this still happens to teens today despite the efforts schools have made preventing it. 

If preventing cyberbullying and seeing a real difference in the future generations with how people treat one another are the goals, then adults have to make empathy and digital citizenship priorities. These changes need to be made before struggling students turn to violence and are permanently affected. 


Jason Ohler’s (2012) explanation of the “two lives” and “one life” perspectives highlights the need for teachers to embrace digital citizenship. Students are asked to disconnect during school in the “two lives” perspective but are also asked to embrace their digital responsibility with “one life.” This is much more appropriate because teachers have the responsibility to teach “our digital kids to balance the individual empowerment of digital technology with a sense of personal community, and global responsibility” (Ohler, 2012). That is what it means to be a good digital citizen.



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Brewer, G., & Kerslake, J. (2015). Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 255-260. Brewer_Cyberbullying_Self-esteem_Empathy_Loneliness.pdf 

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